William Caslon (1693 – 23 January 1766), also known as William Caslon I, was an English gunsmith and designer of typefaces. He was born at Cradley, Worcestershire, and in 1716 started business in London as an engraver of gun locks and barrels, and as a bookbinder's tool cutter. Having contact with printers, he was induced to fit up a type foundry, largely through the encouragement of William Bowyer. The distinction and legibility of his type secured him the patronage of the leading printers of the day in England and on the continent.
Caslon's typefaces were inspired by the Dutch Baroque types, the most commonly used types in England before Caslon's faces. His designs influenced John Baskerville and are thus the progenitors of the typeface classifications Transitional (which includes Baskerville, Bulmer, and Fairfield), and Modern (which includes Bell, Bodoni, Didot, and Walbaum).
Caslon typefaces were immediately popular and used for many important printed works, including the first printed version of the United States Declaration of Independence. Caslon's types became so popular that the expression about typeface choice, "when in doubt, use Caslon," came about. The Caslon types fell out of favour in the century after his death, but were revived in the 1840s. Several revivals of the Caslon types are widely used today.
Caslon died on 23 January 1766, and was buried in the churchyard of St Luke Old Street, London, where the family tomb (bearing his name and others) is preserved.
William Caslon founded the Caslon Foundry at around 1720, which became the leading English typefoundry of the 18th and early 19th centuries.
After the death of William Caslon I, his son William Caslon II took over the Caslon Foundry business, which lasted until William Caslon IV sold the foundry to Blake, Garnett & Co. In 1792, William Caslon III sold his share of Caslon Foundry to his mother and his sister-in-law, the widow of his brother Henry. In the same year, William Caslon III purchased the Salisbury Square foundry from the recently deceased Joseph Jackson, and renamed it to Caslon & Son. In 1807, Caslon & Son was passed to William Caslon IV. In 1819, William Caslon IV sold the Caslon & Son to the new Sheffield foundry of Blake, Garnett & Co. In 1837, the Caslon Foundry became the property of Stephenson, Blake & Co. The family of William Caslon III's sister-in-law kept the main Caslon foundry running until 1937, when Stephenson Blake acquired the remaining H.W. Caslon & Sons foundry. After 275 years, Caslon type is still widely used.
H. W. Caslon and Company Limited
In 1998, Justin Howes reestablished the Caslon foundry, under the name H. W. Caslon & Company Limited, with an expanded version of ITC Founder’s Caslon as the company's initial product. However, following the death of Justin Howes in 2005, the revived H.W. Caslon & Company was no longer in business, and the expanded Founders Caslon is no longer offered in retail market.